Thursday, September 28, 2017

Santa Cruz International Triathlon Race Report

I did my first Olympic distance triathlon in 7 years. It was my last race of my 30s (I turn 40 next month). I had a blast. The Santa Cruz International Triathlon is a famous race, which starts at the Boardwalk, where I used to go as a kid and goes along scenic Highway 1. I had a blast. It was such a fun speed workout!

Swim start in front of the Boardwalk.
Hiding nervousness before the swim.
sea lions, doing it right on Sunday morning, while I swim.
I was nervous before the swim. Mostly because the water was cold. 58 degrees. Once we started, I relaxed. I had done this many times before. After 5 minutes, everything went numb and I felt comfortable. I focused on staying in my pack this time in order to save time and draft. I usually swim to the outside, where it's much less aggressive but I was sick of swimming extra meters. I was quickly reminded of why I normally choose the long way around. Twice, the people I was drafting off of decided to stop to sight and I got a swift butterfly kick to the chest. Ugh. At least it wasn't the stomach. A couple of times, I got squeezed in between two swimmers, body slamming me on either side. Twice, I turned to breathe and the swimmer beside me splashed large siphons of saltwater down my throat. Luckily, I had popped 2 Tums just before the start. Despite the setbacks, I had a very smooth swim. My bilateral breathing came in handy and the body slamming was good practice for the Ironman (IMoo next fall). The 1.5k swim took me 33 minutes. Considering I've been swimming only once a week, I was very pleased.

Having a blast at the end of the bike. 
In T1, I had difficulty getting my wetsuit off because my fingers had gone numb. Eventually, I wriggled out of my wetsuit and into my bike shoes. I had to run up a long hill before mounting Torch but soon enough I was off and riding. Torch rode like a dream after his recent tune-up. I wound along Sea Cliff Drive and then onto the rollers on Highway 1. I had a blast. I felt strong from some recent climbs in the redwoods along the peninsula. The Bay Area is unbelievably hilly and it hasn't been taking much to increase my strength on the bike! It was a wonderful feeling to spin uphill and actually pass people. The 24 miles whipped by, and I was actually disappointed that the bike wasn't longer. It was, after all, very scenic with the ocean to the west. The rollers reminded me of Camp Pendleton. I was able to pull off about an 18 mph average.







Then, it was time for the 10K run. As I headed out of T2, I noticed two homeless people shooting heroin in the park. I guess we were all getting high in some sort of way. I nervously scanned the path for needles. Not too long prior, I had been running barefoot on the path next to them. I shuddered. I much prefer my endorphin high to theirs. 

feeling strong and relaxed on the run!
I noticed my tempo was way too high to be sustainable. I was running off the bike too fast, about 8-minute miles. I've only been running about 15 miles/week so a 9 minute mile is good for me right now. I focused on slowing down and settling into a rhythm. I absorbed the sights around me, which isn't difficult to do in Santa Cruz. I stared at the glittering ocean to my left, watching the surfers, the sea lions, and the pelicans. The miles cruised by. I high-fived a smiling homeless man, who was cheering us on. I drank Gatorade and water at the aid stations. I felt like I was doing more of a speed workout, rather than racing. I was thoroughly enjoying myself. I urged people on that I passed and congratulated runners that passed me. I was happy. I was exactly at the right place at the right time and was in no hurry to be anywhere else. Soon, I was headed towards the finish line. 

Midst a pack of runners, we all positively encouraged each other to "bring it home" and I could feel the adrenaline start surging through my veins about half a mile from the finish. My knees became weak and my legs became wobbly. I was frothing at the bit. I let myself go, trying to sprint towards the finish. It was a great fartlek, and I valiantly tried to pass the other runners in my pack. I wasn't successful but I pushed myself and burst strongly across the finish line. I felt amazing. I was honored to be among so many fit and talented athletes. 

My average run time was about 9:30 minute/miles. Definitely room for improvement but also not too shabby. I was very content. Overall, I finished in about 3 hours and 9th in my AG. But none of that matters. I had an amazing time, felt relaxed, and finished strong. I recovered quickly and can't wait for the next one! The last triathlon of my 30s was a great one. I can't wait to bring in the first triathlon of my 40s on my birthday next month at the Marin Triathlon!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Ironman Wisconsin: 4th for 40!

I signed up for Ironman Wisconsin this week. Yes. I'm pinching myself. I signed up for another Ironman. Three wasn't enough. I thought I was donewith Ironmans. Shit, I thought I was done with triathlons. I'm pinching myself. I'm so excited. I'm so happy I signed up. It's been having a very motivational and healthy impact on my life. I'm starting to maintain some semblance of balance again, the first time since I've begun teaching. Feels so right.

It's been 7 years. I'm feeling really fit and healthy after training consistently for the last 16 weeks. I'm turning 40 in October. I would love to celebrate my 4th for 40 by showing myself I still got it. Why Wisconsin? I went to college there and haven't been back since 2006.

I crashed 3 weeks ago and recovered very quickly. I took 1 week off from training to let the swelling go down and the skin regrow. I was worried I had lost fitness; afterall, I felt stale and weak after a week of rest. Not to worry. I knew after a solid trainer ride, that I was back. A run, weights, and swim followed the next couple of days. 2 weeks after the fall, I did the Redemption Ride, except tackling Page Mill Road up before turning around and going down. It was a tough but rewarding and well-worth-it ride. I've been feeling stronger in my workouts since, almost as if I gained fitness in my week off.

Week's Laundry List of Workouts:
Monday's workout: HOT (91 degrees and muggy--it actually thundered afterwards) 5 mi run in Wonderlich. Up 2 miles, around the meadows 1 mile, then a fun downhill the last 2 miles. Quiet, shady, and wonderful.

Tuesday: Swim (2800 yds) --descending ladder (300 warm up, 500, 400, 300, 200, 100, 4x50, 500 cold down) in Burgess Pool. Times steady. Felt verrry tired at beginning of workout, refreshed at the end.

Wednesday: off--tired & busy

Thursday: 45 minutes trainer ride--Spinerval DVD ("No Slackers Allowed") surprisingly quick and effective. Followed by weights. I can't believe I eked out this workout after a 2 hour nap! I was soooo tired but I did it anyway. No regrets.

Friday: 5 mile run after work up Valparaiso. Pushed myself up hill by Sharon Park at halfway point. Felt quick and strong! Had a 90 min. massage afterwards!

Saturday: 8 mile HILLY run in Rancho San Antonio. Despite the crowds, I absolutely love Rancho. I can't believe I ran all the uphills! Remember, what goes up, must come down. Running in the shade downhill after hot, sweaty uphills is SO much fun! I needed water (it was in the low 80s). I'd like to go 10 miles with water next time.

At the end of the run, I was alone and enjoying the solace, having sought out the hillier, more exposed trails. Movement flickered to my right. I scoured the dry grassy field. Suddenly, I spotted a large animal, gracefully loping through the grass, his fur perfectly matching the tawny stalks. He looked half-dog/half-fox with a bushy tail, thin, muscular body, and large red ears. He was a very healthy, gorgeous coyote. I felt honored to be able to have spotted this shy fellow on such a busy day in the park.

On the final trail next to the parking lot, I saw a couple up ahead, pointing frantically to something that looked like a log on the trail. I realized it was a huge snake, 4-5 feet long. I stopped and approached cautiously before realizing it didn't have a rattle. He was thick and had dark chocolate criss crosses on his back, overlying a lighter tan/yellow color beneath, which matched his belly. Tiny specks of sepia brown flecked his sides as if they had been splashed on with clay. He was beautiful. He didn't like me studying him for he quickly slid off into the grass with impressive acceleration.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

My First Real Fall





I've been riding a road bike since 2003. The only time I've ever fallen was in the very beginning, when learning how to use clipless pedals. Those falls happened embarrassingly at stop lights, invariably with lots of people watching. After 3 or times of falling, I learned how to use clipless pedals with nothing but a bruised ego. I kept pedaling.

I'm not a super fast or strong cyclist. I admit--I got into cycling for triathlon. But I enjoy exploring the  countryside, and I love the workout. Whether it's a tri, road, or mountain bike, I love spinning my legs on days they need to rest from the run. Lately, I've felt ready to start challenging myself with some more hills. I'd heard about the hills in the area and decided to tackle Old La Honda Rd.

I took off after school on Pandora, my quick road bike. I headed up Sand Hill Road, which became Portola Valley Road. I spun my legs as the road gradually began rising upwards. Eventually, I turned right on Old La Honda Road. 4 miles up with switchbacks. I loved the cool trees and tall, dark redwoods. The temperature dropped and my ears popped. In some places, the pavement was so steep, I had to rise out of the saddle, throw my weight forward, and pedal rhythmically (mountain-bike style) to make it over the steepest part of the switchbacks. The challenge was real, but my fitness was there. I felt great. Then, the 4-miles was over.

I turned left on Skyline Blvd towards Page Mill Road. I passed Windy Hill, Coal Creek, Russian Ridge, and many other trails that need to be explored. Although cars zipped by on Skyline, the road was wide, and there was plenty of room. To the right, I could see the clouds hugging the horizon above the blue ocean. To the left, in the distance, I could see a glimpse of the Bay. A spectacular view.

I turned left at Page Mill Road. For the first 2 miles, I was still going uphill. It wasn't steep, but I had thought I would be enjoying a descent by now. Was this some sort of cruel joke. In my experience (and knowledge of physics), what goes up, must come down, especially when riding a loop, right?

Then, the descent began. My tired legs and butt enjoyed the break. I rose up out of the saddle and leaned into the drops, letting the bike hug the turns. I focused on moving the inside pedal up so as not to scrape the pavement. Scenic views of fields, trails, and oak groves lined the road. Hawks lazily swooped to the tops of trees. I felt relaxed and happy. I hadn't zipped down hills like this in a long time.

The descents became steeper and windier. I shifted my weight back and used the rear break more, slowing down before the turn. The slope eased, and I dropped forward and let the bike speed up again. A right-hand turn. I'm much more confident in right turns, being right-handed. I leaned into the turn to increase speed. The pavement was slick. It had just been repaved. I squeezed the back break as I leaned in the steepest part of the curve. It felt like the road had suddenly dropped out from under me. As if in a bad dream, Pandora fell away from me. I collided with the pavement beginning with my right thigh, hip, elbow, shoulder and right hand. My computer had read 24 mph just before I'd gone down. It happened so fast that I didn't have time to react. All I could think as the bike fell away from under me was, "Uh oh. This is going to be bad."

After I had slid to a stop, the first thing I could think of was, "Get out of the road." I pulled Pandora and myself off to the side of the road to catch my breath. Then, I realized I was on the narrowest part of the curve, and therefore, the most hidden. I looked around me and scrambled to the opposite side of the road on the shoulder. I sat in the dust. The bike seemed okay. I didn't seem to have hit my head or broken anything. My right hip was on fire, and I was dazed but miraculously okay. I was still 10 miles from the car on a remote road with little traffic. If I wanted help, I would have to wait at least 30 minutes. I knew I would get cold and potentially go into shock. Without thinking too much about it, I decided to see how it felt to ride the bike slowly, especially since most of the 10 miles was downhill (I had done all the hard, uphill work already).

I didn't have to pedal much at first. The road wound downhill like a spiral roller coaster. I breaker and shifted my weight back. I went very slowly. I started to feel shaky and I could't stop my feet from quivering violently against the bike frame. I focused on taking deep breaths and pedaled slowly. My hip screamed and my elbow hurt. The handlebars felt slick with sweat. I looked down. The right side was dripping with blood from my right hand. My knuckles had also kissed the road.

The slow pedaling helped move the warmth of my blood back into my extremities. I relaxed and stopped shaking. I became thirsty and drank lots of water. Somehow, the more I pedaled, the better I felt. I was exhausted but exhilarated when I made it back to the car. I was so relieved. I was alive. I hadn't broken anything. It could have been so much worse.
Right elbow, immediately after the fall. 
48 hours later.





Monday, August 21, 2017

Sandman Triathlon Race Report

I hadn't done a triathlon in 7 years. After changing jobs, life and laziness got in the way. I always felt like a part of me had died. I didn't intend to become flabby and out-of-shape. It just happened. Then, in May, I started working out regularly again. In July, I noticed my fitness had increased. I decided to get my mojo back. Afterall, I'm turning 40 in October, and it's kind of freaking me out. So I signed up for a couple of races, including the Sandman Sprint Triathlon, August 20th, 2017.

School started on Wednesday, August 17th 2017. I'm a high school biology and chemistry teacher. My head began to spin with the daily onslaught of activities that regularly boggle my mind--part of the job requirement. I began to think racing the first weekend of school was a bad idea. However, I'm also motivated to continue training while teaching this year. Balancing both seems like an essential plan for my long-term health.

Wednesday night, I spent 2 hours gluing on new tubular tires to my race wheels, which had been hanging in my garage for 7 years. I tried them out on Thursday. The brake pads rubbed and the gears slipped. I didn't have time for a tune-up. What had I gotten myself into? I knew my training was solid but familiar race nerves crawled up my throat. Why was I doing this to myself? Waking up early, plunging into a freezing-cold ocean, and pushing myself to the point of almost puking did not seem like a good way to spend a weekend.

Sunday morning, I woke up at 5:30 am, plenty of time before my 8:05 am start. Eating breakfast was the worst part of my whole day. This activity basically involved staring loathingly at small pieces of a cereal bar for 5 minutes before forcing a small chunk down my throat. It took 30 minutes to eat a banana and half a cereal bar. I simply couldn't get down any more.

Once I got to the race site, I calmed down immensely. Everything felt familiar, and I knew what to do. There was no more stir-crazy downtime. I set up my transition area, got body-marked, made a trip to the bathroom, and slid into my wetsuit. I walked to the beach and tested the water. I had heard people say the temperature was in the 50s but my toes told me low 60s. The surface was glassy and calm. The skies were overcast and the air was cool, but mild. Conditions couldn't have been more perfect. There was nothing more I could do to prepare. I was ready.


Before I knew it, I was lining up with the women. I hopped up and down to warm up. The horn blew, and we took off through the sand and plunged into the ocean. The waves were small and easy to navigate. I found myself, as usual, to the outside of the pack on the 3/4 mile swim. I was surprised at how familiar everything felt. I was calm and enjoying my first ocean swim in over a year. The swim went by quickly; there were several turns and buoys so there was lots to think about. I couldn't believe how relaxed I felt. It was just like riding a bike (pun intended).



When I ran up into T1, I felt hot, out of breath, and disoriented. My heart rate must have been through the roof. I took my time getting onto the bike and then clipped into Torch, my old, steady race steed. We took off into the hills of Aptos. The bike was scenic but hilly. Lots of racers were on road bikes (not to self for future Sandmans). The first few miles, I tried to spin, eat some GU, and get my heart rate down. It took me about 3 miles to warm up and settle into a sustainable pace. I felt more like I was on a fun bike ride then racing. This was fine by me. After all the races I have under my belt, I just want to enjoy myself, get a good workout, have fun, and maybe make some friends when I race this time around. Goal achieved. After many ups and downs through redwood trees, horse stables, and farms, the 13-mile bike ride quickly came to an end.

When I rolled into T2, the person next to me had dropped my bike in my spot. I ended up covered in grease and blood from her rear cassette by the time I had racked her bike, and then mine. Rude! But, soon enough, I had my running shoes and cap on, and I felt surprisingly springy for the run. After all, running has always been my favorite part. Then, I hit the sand. The entire 4-mile run was on the beach (hence the name Sandman). It was a tough beach run! Between the tide coming in, seaweed, uneven sand, and people running this way and that, it was more like an obstacle course. I focused on maintaining a steady, strong pace, as opposed to speedy. I leaped over 3 logs each way. My shoes were soaked. But I loved it. Not once did I feel bored or in pain. With so many things to weave in and around, there was plenty to keep my mind occupied. The miles flew by. Before I knew it, the finish line was in sight. The last stretch before the finish line involved deep sand. I forced myself through it, giving it all I had left. I had no sprint in me, only 1 gear. But I did it--I finished strong and felt great afterwards. I high-fived the woman who had rallied with me to the finish line, and headed over for bananas and water. I'm so excited to be racing again!


As I packed up to leave, I felt calm and at peace. I'm very excited to be back and racing again. Racing ensures that I will maintain my workout/training plan. Right before I started rolling out, I heard a gasp from the spectators. I humpback whale had just breached right off the beach. I watched in amazement as a pod of humpbacks surfaced, spouted, and frolicked peacefully in the exact spot where I had swam only a few hours ago. It felt like a good omen.










Friday, August 11, 2017

First Brick

I did my first brick in 7 years today. It was amazing. Bricks make me feel like a true triathlete, following a bike immediately by a run. Not only do they get your legs used to running off the bike, but for some reason, I actually like them. I take awhile to warm up, and I've found I actually run faster off the bike than running alone. Today was no exception.

The other day, I had to slog through an awful 3 mile run. My body was feeling under the weather, and I couldn't muster the strength to move my legs. My body felt like lead, and my stomach sloshed around nauseously. It felt very hot, even though the weather was a breezy 73 degrees (thanks Bay Area for perfect weather!). I wanted to quit. I wanted to beat myself up for running so slowly. But I made my mind go blank and just focused on getting it done. Not every workout is going to be stellar. What's important is that I still do them and not give up. Those tough, crappy workouts are the ones that will make me stronger on race day.

I was happy I pushed through. I took the next day off and have rebounded since. Today, I did a 21 mile bike, followed by a 3-mile run. I felt strong and fast. My average bike pace has increased by 2 mph since I've started, and I'm going faster up the rolling hills. Although this is not the first time at the rodeo, it is interesting to assess the difference in training since I've lost so much fitness. The gains seem to be coming back faster this time around. It helps not being injured or overtrained (probably for the first time in my life). I feel wiser and better at listening to my body. Let's hope I can maintain this new, more patient perspective.

The bike and run today were blissful freedom from my racing mind. School starts on Wednesday, and I've been caught up in back-to-school activities. It will only get worse. My goal this year is to maintain balance and be able to juggle a demanding teaching career with my training schedule. Even though I was tired from work and my mind was racing, as I biked down the road, my legs spun my mind into blankness. My to-do list which had been on repeat in my brain suddenly paused. I did not think of the upcoming race next weekend, nor the Ironman I want to do in a year. I did not even think of the run I had to do after the bike. I thought of nothing. My legs repeatedly revolved in a rhythmic manner, and my body became a well-oiled machine, quieting my anxious mind. As my mind went numb, I reached that blissful state I can only achieve for brief periods of time when I attempt to meditate. I relished in the freedom, taking my peaceful stat of mind with me into my run.

I finished the bike, grabbed my dog, and trotted off down the road. My legs continued to rock steadily in a high cadence. I thought of nothing except the space between each footfall and watched Juneau's tongue lolling out of the side of her mouth. The miles flew by. It was a wonderful workout, and I'm hoping sleep will come easily tonight.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

My Annual Fall

I took my annual fall this week. It seems I fall while running once a year. I was having a very pleasant, 7-mile road run with my dog, Juneau. A construction zone appeared ahead with traffic cones, funneling traffic into a narrow lane. The shoulder was being repaved. No room or signs for pedestrians. One of the construction workers was standing on the newly paved section. After a quick assessment, I decided to run where the construction worker was standing. If he could stand there, I could surely run through there, right? However, I did not see the "trip-wire" blindly hanging about 2 inches off the ground. Juneau gracefully hopped over it as my right toe hooked underneath of the string. I flew across the pavement, Superman style, landing on my knee, stomach, elbows, and hands. I grunted, heaved myself to my feet, and dusted myself off. The workers stared at me in disbelief.
"Are you alright?" one asked.
"Yeah," I replied in annoyance. I was not happy that falling was becoming so routine that I wasn't even phased. I brushed myself off and kept running, knowing a) my injuries seemed superficial and b) all inflammation and pain wouldn't begin until 30 minutes after my run finished. Besides, I still had 2 miles to go and running would get me home faster than walking.
I'm healing nicely and my injuries did not prevent me from further workouts. In addition to the knee wound, I have poison oak scabs all over both legs from 3 different trail runs/bikes. Apparently, I'm very sensitive, which is not a good recipe for living in Northern California where poison oak is rampant. Did you know that the itching lasts for 3 weeks?

I'm slowly clawing my way back onto the exercise wagon. I feel like I've reached the first tier of fitness. I'm back in shape again. I can swim 2500 yds, bike 30 miles, and run 7 miles. I feel healthy and ready to add more miles. Now, I want to start racing again, building endurance, and see where it takes me. I have to be careful not to bite off more than I can chew and end up inured or burnt out again. However, dreams of Ironmans and ultra marathons are dancing through my head. I have a long, long way to go. It's frustrating because I can see how much I've lost. It's hard to be patient and let my body absorb the workouts. However, I do best when I just enjoy the workouts, don't push, and let my body tell me when it's ready. I'm excited to see where this takes me.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Resurrected!

I've decided to breathe new life into this blog again to symbolize my return to endurance training. It's been a year since I posted. How did that happen? I guess life got in the way. Once the school year started in 2016-17, I dove into the classroom and didn't surface again until June.

Now that I've had the whole summer to work on myself, I've been doing lots of training and lots of reflection. I've realized that endurance sports are a strong part of my identity (as well as teaching). My goal this year is to somehow meld the two. I've worked hard to gain a modicum of fitness this summer, and I'm not going to give it up easily. I'm signing up for races and can't wait to give you some race reports! (See sidebar for list of races). Another goal I have is to not lose myself in the endurance training either, but to lead a more balanced life between work and play. I want to workout at a sustainable level. Burning out is not fun, and it's taken me years to recover.

I ran in Wunderlich Park today, a hilly, shady network of trails in the Woodside area. It's gorgeous, quiet, and full of redwoods. I felt like my complete self as I battled the hills, huffing and puffing, refusing to walk. It was exhilarating. For those 7 miles, I felt lost in my footfalls. I savored every minute of it. I'm excited to see where this journey will take me.

In addition, I'm turning 40 in October. I'm using it to motivate me. I'm excited to get my mojo back. I'm considering doing another Ironman. I didn't think I wanted to do that distance again, but after a few weeks of reflection, I've realized I have the hunger again. It would be a great way to get redemption. I can't think of a better birthday present for myself. Now the question is, which Ironman?  I would love to pick one in the summer when I'm not teaching. Any suggestions?